Why should you care that today is the National Day of Prayer?

Why should you care that today is the National Day of Prayer? May 2, 2024

Why should you care that today is the National Day of Prayer? You know the correct answers to the question, of course:

  • You are to pray for our leaders and thus for our nation (1 Timothy 2:1–2).
  • You are in fact to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • You want God’s best for our country and her people.
  • It is a patriotic privilege to join with other Christians in interceding for America.

All good responses, obviously. Here’s one more:

Americans find themselves, and there is no reasonable way to deny this, in a moment of profound crisis. The country is changing, and the substance of that transformation is not clear. Americans are divided, and those divisions go well beyond ideological differences. They cut to the marrow of the bone. Too often we see each other as enemies. Disagreement is saturated with contempt. Mutuality drowns in the bitterness of our public discourse. The sense of common purpose and public good has been thrown into the trash bin as we huddle in our silos.

Is this the doomsaying of an extremist ranting on social media to get clicks and likes?

Actually, these are the observations of Dr. Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the James C. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Princeton University and former president of the American Academy of Religion. His solution to our crisis frames the discussion I’d like us to have today:

The salvation of democracy itself . . . requires that we understand that democratic flourishing cannot be, in John Dewey’s words, “separated from the individual attitudes so deep-seated as to constitute character.”

Then Dr. Glaude makes this point in italics:

We must be the kinds of people democracies require.

How can we be such people today?

Using a fly swatter to play golf

It is a category mistake to use something for a purpose it was not intended to fulfill. You wouldn’t use a fly swatter to play golf or a bicycle to travel to Hawaii.

Neither should we expect temporal strategies to satisfy eternal needs. The psalmist spoke for us all when he testified, “I am a sojourner on the earth” (Psalm 119:19).

Jesus identified the path to the transformation Americans need for the sake of America: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

St. Cyril of Alexandria (AD 376–444) commented on Jesus’ statement:

Just as the trunk of the vine gives its own natural properties to each of its branches, so, by bestowing on them the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the only-begotten Son of the Father, gives Christians a certain kinship with himself and with God the Father because they have been united to him by faith and determination to do his will in all things. He helps them to grow in love and reverence for God, and teaches them to discern right from wrong and to act with integrity.

What does this mean in practical terms?

Courageous prayer and the courage to pray

The Bible says Abraham “grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Romans 4:20). There is a reciprocal relationship at work here: The more I glorify God, the stronger I grow in my faith. Then, the stronger I grow in my faith, the more I glorify God. The closer I am to the “light of men” (John 1:4), the more I reflect his light and am changed by it. And the more I am changed by it, the more I reflect it.

When King Darius commanded the Babylonians to pray only to him, Daniel courageously defied this idolatrous edict by continuing to pray to the one true God (Daniel 6:6–10). What we might overlook in reading this story is the possibility that Daniel’s continued prayer gave him the courage to defy the edict. The more he prayed, the more he was empowered to pray.

How does this conversation relate to today’s National Day of Prayer?

The more we pray for our nation, the more our connection with God through prayer will empower and encourage us to pray for our nation. And the more we are empowered to pray, the more we will want to pray.

Then, when we have been thus empowered by the Spirit, we are more equipped and enabled to be the answer to our prayers:

  • As we pray for Americans to come to Christ, we are more likely to lead them to Christ through our witness and example.
  • As we pray for our leaders, we are more likely to engage with them personally and to enter public service ourselves.
  • As we pray for our nation to turn to biblical truth and morality, we are more likely to become the change we wish to see.

In short, praying for our nation on this day—and every day—is one of the most patriotic ways we can serve our nation. As a result of such a commitment, we will “be the kinds of people democracies require.”

May it begin with me.

And with you.

Thursday news to know:

Quote for the day:

“The whole reason why we pray is to be united into the vision and contemplation of God to whom we pray.” —Julian of Norwich

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